Smith died at 9 a.m., said a spokeswoman for Croley Funeral Home in Gilmer. Funeral services are set for 2 p.m. Saturday (today) at the First United Methodist Church in Gilmer with Rev. Dick Dobbins officiating.
Burial will be in Mattox Cemetery at Diana. Visitation was held at the funeral home Friday night.
Upshur County Commissioners Court stirred controversy by appointing Smith to the office in 1982 effective Jan. 1, 1983, to succeed the late W.C. (Bill) Jones. Jones, who retired after holding the post about 20 years, had recommended the court appoint one of his female deputies, Carrie Fulsom, to succeed him, and three female workers in the office abruptly resigned in protest of Smith’s being chosen over a woman.
Ms. Fulsom later ran against Smith for the job, and he defeated her by a 2-1 margin. He worked at Lone Star Steel before becoming Tax Assessor-Collector.
When Smith retired, his 28-year tenure was the second longest among then-elected Upshur County officials, trailing only Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace W.V. Ray, who himself is scheduled to retire at year’s end.
Smith was unable to return to work following the stroke in early January 2010 and, after numerous hospitalizations, retired effective April 30, 2011. He had battled cancer before the stroke. His wife, Melinda, appeared before the County Commissioners Court to announce his retirement.
First elected in his own right in 1984, Smith was reelected six times, the last time in 2008 to a term that was to end Dec. 31, 2012. Although he had opponents at times, he always won handily.
Also during his tenure, the tax office moved from the courthouse to its current location in the former Gilmer National Bank building at the intersection of Titus and Cass Streets.
Smith was named “Tax Assessor Collector of the Year” for 2003 by the state’s Tax Assessor Collector Assn. (TACA), and he was elected president of the Texas School Assessors Association for 2006. He also served on TACA’s legislative committee.
Smith’s successor, current Tax Assessor-Collector Sherron Laminack, began working for him in the tax office in September 1999 and remembered him Thursday as “a great person” who was “very honest” and “worked hard for the county.”
County Judge Dean Fowler, who served several years with Smith, said Thursday, “I would say that MIke was a remarkable man who provided decades of great service to our county.”
The last surviving member of the Commissioners Court which appointed Smith, then-Pct. 3 Comm. (and later County Judge) Charles L. Still, said Thursday he knew Smith all his life and loved him.
Smith died one day before another former county official, ex-Pct. 2 Commissioner Bill Loggins Jr., died. Loggins was the father-in-law of current Pct. 4 County Comm. Mike Spencer. (See obituaries for both men elsewhere in today’s edition.)